Stefi Rosca

🚠 My journey into tech

TL;DR: The path to becoming a developer isn’t a walk in the park at least it wasn’t for me but as you will see, not all obstacles are unshakeable.

Did you ever want to do something that people like you aren’t supposed to do? I knew early on that I wanted to study computer science but life got in the way.

High School & University

Looking back this seems almost stupid, but having moved to a new school in 4th grade I felt like I had to pretend math wasn’t my favorite subject just to be accepted and included.

Later on I didn’t have the chance to pick a high school with an IT section as this didn’t exist in the only German speaking high school in my hometown. Ironically, the opposite happened at the university. There was an IT uni where they taught in German but at this point I needed to leave home so I went on to study economics.

Building a blog

While in uni my need to share ads and short films that I was finding online led me to create a blog. Using a template wasn’t ideal so I started customising things through HTML and CSS. It wasn’t easy. Back then there weren’t many online resources but this didn’t stop me from staying up late excitedly looking for solutions.

First job

Being a student and not having money led me to get a job. Juggling school and work didn’t leave me any time to ask myself if this was something I enjoyed and wanted to do. Once I had graduated and I got more experience I became aware of the fact that this was not what I wanted to do. But what do you do with this information at this stage? Moving to a smaller company gave me the opportunity to get a closer look at the tech department. It was clear I wanted to be part of it. Wasn’t it too late though? Going back to uni meant optimistically 4 more years of school and starting over again in my 30’s when one should already have their life figured out. This is when I asked a close friend who studied programming in high school how I could get started and she recommend that I learn C. Start there and then move on, she said.

Dipping my toes in C

As advised, I signed up for a C class in Bucharest. This came after a failed attempt to learn Python on my own via Codecademy.

After only two C classes I had to quit. Spending 3 hours in class feeling stupid while not understanding anything felt like a confirmation that this is not something I am capable of especially while seeing all the guys getting it. Now I could move on and try other things out.

So I signed up for a photography class to learn more about cameras and maybe start being more intentional about making YouTube videos. At this time I was also trying to move to Barcelona and got a job offer. YAY!

Moving to Barcelona

Miles away this voice didn’t get quieter. It kept yelling that programming is for me. Having shared this interest with my flatmate I’ve found out about codebar[3], a non-profit organization running free workshops helping minorities get into tech. I decided to go to one of their meetups trying to learn Python. I convinced myself that I was doing this just to learn a programming language as the 5th language I ‘speak’. The first experience wasn’t great but the people there convinced me to come back. The support of this community made it ok to feel stupid.

codebar meetup

At codebar I felt supported and although I was questioning this career change people here believed that I got what it takes and shared with me a lot of helpful free online resources like freecodecamp or Scrimba [4]. This helped me get started. For a long while, I hid what I actually wanted and pretended I only went in order to better understand html and css just to re-create my blog without using any template.

As I got to know more stuff I felt more confident to join other meet-ups, mainly for minorities. Through these, I’ve got to meet other people who years ago were in the same position as me and transitioned. Meeting others who looked like me or were similar to me made this idea of wanting to become a developer a very realistic one that only needed execution.

By far the best intro to coding course

Discovering CS50[5] was a life-changing experience. Completing this course was a big struggle but thanks to the great network of people I met through the meetups I had the necessary support to keep pushing forward. I thought that if I can finish this course at Harvard I will finally prove myself that I am capable of becoming the developer I dreamed. Professor David Mallan’s energy and trust in me got transmitted through my laptop screen and I felt I could do it.

Attending a bootcamp

Midway through CS50 I was sure I wanted to make the change but it felt too slow and the number of free resources was rather overwhelming. A bootcamp looked like a good solution but given they are very expensive I had to find scholarships. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline for a scholarship but after talking to the founder of the school they offered me something similar. YAY! On top of that for the remaining amount they gave me a commission-free loan. The bootcamp , codeOp[6], is for women only and is based in Barcelona. If anyone wants to know more feel free to contact me. I might be able to get you a discount.

Once in the bootcamp everything felt right and I just kept going. This was pre-pandemic and even though I didn’t yet finish the bootcamp I was getting interviews. There were plenty of jobs for juniors and grads. Because I had to get my first job early on, due to financial needs, this time I wanted to take my time and see what I like more, thanks to my savings. It was Katrina, the founder, who introduced me to the Recurse Center [2], an incredible community where your goal as a participant is to become a better programmer. There is no curriculum and you are in charge of how you spend your time at Recurse Center.

Posing in front of Sagrada Family after the bootcamp graduation

Joining the Recurse Center, getting a tech-related job and doing a Mock interview with Cassidoo

I joined RC in April 2020, which is when Spain went to complete lockdown. Covid made our future uncertain which forced companies to go on hiring freezes and suddenly junior/graduate disappeared while many mid-senior developers got laid off. I was running very low on my savings and I was again in a position where I had to take a job. Therefore I applied also for tech-related roles, besides developer roles.

The job I got was in a toxic environment which affected my mental health. Because they didn’t allow me to spend 3 weeks working from my home country during Christmas, although I was only working remotely as the office was closed, I decided to quit and fly home to take some time to recover and study. Here I wouldn’t spend too much money and would get delicious food for free.

Around the time I decided to quit I got an email from Scrimba about a competition to win a React Mock interview with Cassidoo[1] which I got 😄. I had 2 days to prepare and was nothing close to ready. Having gotten this opportunity and learning what I was struggling with I decided to do a big recap on the Scrimba platform while also working on a personal project I hadn’t touched in a long while. Cassidy was very nice and supportive and thanks to her feedback I knew what I had to focus on.

Community is key

During the week I’ve spent in Romania I’ve found some amazing mentors, via Coding Coach, Giacomo Rebonato being one of them, and also kept pairing with other friends and mentors I’ve found through codebar and the RC.

It was not easy getting my very first developer job but after many applications, interviews, and failed coding challenges I am officially a Frontend Developer whose code is already in production ✨.

Something I’ve learned through this journey is to trust my guts, if something pulls you in, again and again, listen to it. Whenever stuck, ask for help. There are so many resources. Some people won’t answer, don’t let that discourage you, just write to more people and try to be specific about what you need to make it easy for them to respond.

If you are looking to get into tech I wrote a long detailed article 🦩 5 Free coding resources that helped me get my first frontend developer job where I go more into details about the resources and communities mentioned in this article.

  • [1]: Mock React job interview (featuring Cassidy Williams)
  • [2]: The Recurse Center is a self-directed, community-driven educational retreat for programmers. It offers educational retreats for anyone who wants to get dramatically better at programming. The retreats are free, self-directed, and project based. You attend RC as part of a group of people, called a batch. Batches start every six weeks, and you can attend RC for either one, six or 12 weeks. When you do a batch of RC, you spend your time working at the edge of your programming abilities in a rigorous, supportive, and friendly environment. RC is for people of all ages and experience levels.
  • [3]: codebar: their goal is to enable minority group members to learn programming in a safe and collaborative environment and expand their career opportunities. To achieve this they we run free regular workshops, regular one-off events and try to create opportunities for our students making technology and coding more accessible.
  • [4]: The Frontend Developer Career Path from Scrimba contains over 70 hours of top-notch tutorials, hundreds of coding challenges, and dozens of real-world projects. Their tagline is: Don’t waste \$15K on a coding bootcamp Our Frontend Career Path helps motivated students become hireable developers for 1% of the price.
  • [5]: CS50 Harvard University’s introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike, with or without prior programming experience.
  • [6]: codeOp was founded in 2018 to help solve the gender disparity problem in the tech space. We’re the first international tech school for women+ (embracing women, transgender, and non-binary individuals) who want to transition to, or upskill in tech.

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👩‍💻 Frontend Developer, 🌍 traveler and⛷️ Skier

Recurse Center Alumn

Stefi Rosca © 2024